Understanding Winter Weather Forecasting Alerts

Understanding Winter Weather Forecasting Alerts

Residents and small businesses are urged by the NOAA’s National Weather Service to stay on tops of local warnings and forecasts and get educated on the different types of weather terminology. Below are definitions of some of the main winter weather alerts that as a small business owner you should know about — and what to expect if one happens to be issued in your area.

The Main Four Winter Weather Alerts

While there are many winter weather alerts, there are four main ones.



Winter Storm Outlook

This is the term used when a storm hasn’t arrived yet, but is expected to in a few days. This gives you time to check emergency supplies in your company and go over the company’s emergency plan with employees. It’s important that you stay updated on the weather so you can prepare accordingly.

Winter Storm Watch

This alert will let you know about the possibility of any heavy snow, sleet, or freezing rain or a blizzard. These types of winter storm watches are typically issued anywhere from 12 to 48 hours before the winter storm begins.

Winter Storm Warning

This alert will let you know when dangerous winter weather such as heavy freezing rain, sleet or snow is happening or looming. You are typically notified by these warnings between 12 to 24 hours before the storm hits.

Winter Storm Advisory

This alert lets you know of winter weather on its way that is less severe. This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to prepare for it. Snow and ice accumulation can still cause dangerous conditions and travel delays. Therefore, your employees should still exercise extreme caution. Make sure all company vehicles are filled up with gas and your building premises taken care of to prevent any fall or injury.

Other Winter Weather Alerts

There are several other winter weather alerts that you should be aware of, particularly if your small business has fleet drivers.

Blizzard Warning

Blizzard warnings are issued for gusty or sustained winds that are 35 mph or more and for blowing or falling snow that creates visibility problems.

Ice Storms (warning)

Ice storms can create extreme hazardous conditions for traveling. The weight of the ice can cause falling power lines and tree limbs. If you have drivers out on the roads, have them drive with great caution.

Wind Chill (watch, warning or advisory)

This alert is issued since temperatures that dip or reach below -20 degrees Fahrenheit can cause very dangerous conditions outside.


Sleet is where raindrops freeze and turn into ice pellets before they reach the ground. Sleet doesn’t stick to objects and typically bounces when it hits the surface, but can still be hazardous to motorists since it can accumulate like snow.

Freezing Rain

When rain gets below freezing temperature as it hits the surface, it can freeze to surfaces like roads, cars or trees and form a glaze or coat of ice. This can cause a serious hazard even in small accumulations. Alerts are quite necessary for this so people can take caution.

Winter can take a huge toll on your company property and budget. Learning how to protect your business and employees against winter hazards can potentially reduce your risk of lawsuits due to falls, injuries, or vehicle crashes. It is also important that you have both business property insurance and business interruption insurance in place to help cover the costs of power failure (business disruption) or property damage. Of course, you also need sufficient commercial auto insurance in the event of a winter weather crash.